The situation is now so dire, the Siberian journalist says, that it sometimes happens that several bridges collapse in the course of a single day. On October 9, for example, that occurred, with two bridges collapsing onto the Trans-Siberian railway in Amur Oblast and a third falling down in Mordvinia.
Mikhail Blinkin, a transportation economist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, says that “an enormous number of bridges are in a dangerous situation” because they aren’t being maintained. Those in the worst shape are bridges under the responsibility of regional or local officials. “There is no money” to do even minimal repairs, he adds.
Worse this underfinancing of bridge repair has been true for decades, extending back into Soviet times. Now, the bill for this failure to maintain the bridges is coming do; and it is far higher than any official had anticipated, in large measure because Russia has so many rivers and thus so many bridges.
According to Rosstat, there are abut 42,000 bridges in Russia, with a total length of 2.1 million meters. “Every ninth bridge is made of word,” and “about 500” are acknowledged to be at the point of collapse. Many were built when the weight of trucks they had to support was half as much as the weight now.
Aleksandr Strelnikov, a specialist at the Russian transportation ministry, says that many of the bridges were constructed inadequately and thus were going to fail regardless of maintenance. Still worse, he continues, the quality of bridge construction has declined in recent years: it was far superior in Soviet times. Now, officials try to build bridges too quickly.
The problem is made worse by Russia’s severe climatic conditions, but it has been hidden from many because the worst cases are in poor regions distant from the capital. Many of the bridge collapses now are not even reported in the central media, and so Russians do not know just how bad things are becoming beyond the areas in which they live.